Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Reverend Wright Ain't Right ... But What Is?

"Crazy-eyed man with a shotgun.
Hot headed creep with a knife.
Love and peace and harmony,
Love you could cut with a life." — Under The God, Tin Machine

What the hell is everyone’s fixation with Rev. Jeremiah Wright? Someone tell me how in the wide, wide world of sports this became the most pressing issue in the country?

Yes, the man has some racial tendencies in some of his ideas and theories. And he’s a pastor in an all black church. Take a look at some of the southern or less contemporary white evangelical congregations, and trade out “white” and “America” and exchange that with a group of color – Arabic being the most frequent target of choice in today’s USA – and exchange that with any other country, or for that matter, liberals, gays, poor and indigent people who are minority, or going back a ways, hippies and college radicals.

Now explain to me how this differs so widely from what you hear from Rev. Wright after exchanging the contexts?

Yes, there’s the obvious: it doesn’t attack America (more precisely the government). I’ll grant you that. Additionally Rev. Wright chose to be as audacious and sensationalistic as possible to – surprise – draw attention to himself! It’s a trick you can find from Rev. Pat Robertson too. Remember his comments about feminists and gays being the cause of 9/11? Sure, it didn’t attack American government, but it did attack blocks of American citizens. Even Rush Limbaugh pontificated that if you want to be noticed, you must be outrageous. Otherwise, you blend into the scenery.

Who’da thunk it? Someone working hard to draw attention to himself!

It’s a certainty that in any election outside of an overwhelmingly black electorate, Rev. Wright won’t win an election. His high-contrast bombast ensures that.

In case anyone hasn’t noticed, though, he’s not running for election. Sen. Barack Obama is.

Lest we forget, Obama isn’t the only presidential candidate who’s been tied to controversially polarizing religious leaders. After blasting religiopolitical evangelicals as being agents of evil, Sen. John McCain himself sidled up to Revs. Pat Robertson and Jerry Falwell this presidential season, even speaking at graduation ceremonies at Falwell’s Liberty University. George W. Bush managed to be elected after speaking and forming very friendly relations at the controversial religious Bob Jones University in South Carolina.

One of Bilerico.com’s bloggers, Rev. Irene Monroe, took Obama to task in “Obama's Chickens Have Come Home to Roost” by first quoting Rev. Wright’s speech at the National Press Club:

"We both know that if Senator Obama did not say what he said, he would never get elected. Politicians say what they say and do what they do based on electability, based on sound bites, based on polls -- Huffington, whoever's doing the polls. Preachers say what they say because they are pastors. They have a different person to whom they're accountable. As I said, whether he gets elected or not, I'm still going to have to be answerable to God, November 5th and January 21st. That's what I mean. I do what pastors do. He does what politicians do."

Rev. Monroe, from what I can surmise, possibly a Clinton-supporter, then muses:

Where Obama ran afoul is that he didn't think his involvement with Rev. Wright would collide with his carefully crafted post-racial electable message

But maybe there's a bigger lesson here that Obama is now learning. And it's this: whether he dons the face of a Christian and/or the face of a politician in this bid for the White House - no lie lives forever. Like chickens, they eventually come home to roost.

Yes the chickens do come home to roost, regardless of whether you’re black, white, conservative, female, gay or whatever. Sure, Obama’s not dealt with this issue well and it’s exposed some weakness and possibly not complete honesty. Yes, that’s disappointing and I’m saddened. But does this mean I’m going to change votes?

To whom?

Take a look at Hillary Clinton issues with honesty. Before anyone begins to defend the Kosovo “misremembering,” that’s not going to impress me! I’m very acutely aware of her “open letter to the GLBT community” where she tried to play up her long-time support of the transgender community (wrong!) and even went so far as to claim she was so supportive of we trannies that she was signed on to co-sponsor the upcoming ENDA bill in the Senate! Too damn bad it’s the House version which has no coverage for transgender!

How about the robotic maverick, John McCain? He’ll say whatever he’s programmed to say. Get Rover or the right RNC person on the line and McCain will sing like a bird on a wire. Mr. No-to-tax-cuts-for-the-rich just loves them tax cuts now. Of course, we should remember his big dust-up trying to convince Obama to join him in signing up for federal financing (thus limiting his campaign donations severely), then shortly after eschewing the same financing after pulling in loans based upon accepting said fed campaign financing as collateral.

And hey! Don’t forget McCain’s big TV news opp down in New Orleans saying “never again” …. One question to that: where the hell was his voice speaking out while all that was going on before God and the world? Tell us, Mr. Maverick ….

Ultimately, we’re back to electing a group of less-than-perfect, less-than-fully-forthcoming individuals who are “politicians” with all the unctuous trappings of all the other “politicians” who’ve occupied the White House. If you wanted someone who really cared and had the best message for all those being trampled in America, you’d have voted John Edwards as your Dem nominee – but notice the collective yawn for that campaign from the voters!

We’re getting the candidates we deserve.

In my estimation, with the crop of candidates we have left, Obama is still the best of what we have. He’s not perfect. So what? Hopefully he doesn’t take the continued believers’ support for granted or become arrogant in thinking we don’t matter, and instead learns from this and becomes a better, more aware and more human candidate. Fallible and all.

One thing that’s certain: this Rev. Wright stuff’s gotta stop. Not only is it inflammatory, objectifying and pernicious, it’s not the most pressing problem we’re facing!

Has anyone looked at the economy? The escalating prices and the flat wages and layoffs? The geopolitical instability due to food shortages or unaffordability? How about the ever-popular Iraq War? Or any of the others Bush / Cheney are trying to cook up and leave us with (yeah, we need another war, right?)

Yeah … thanks for focusing on the important things, folks. Where’s Britney Spears when you need her?

“Washington heads in the toilet bowl
Don’t see supremacist hate.
Right-wing dicks in their boiler suits
Picking out who to annihilate.
Toxic jungle of uzi trails,
Tribesmen just wouldn’t live here.
Fascist flare is fashion cool.
Well you’re dead, you just ain’t buried yet.” — Under The God, Tin Machine

Sunday, April 27, 2008

Hitting Home In A Hard, Hard Way

"My doctor told me not to smoke,
drink nothin stronger than a coke,
I’m not even supposed to hear a dirty joke,
'cause laughing will strain my heart.
I've had every ailment known to man
from the African mumps to dishpan hands
I lost every race that I ever ran –
I never even got to start.” — Think You’ve Got Trouble, Marvin Rainwater

It seems we have this never-ending fight for our rights: employment, hate crimes and even now (especially in gay / lesbian circles) marriage rights are a constant. As we’re engaged in the upcoming election season and are on the crest of a political catharsis in the country, we’ve become enrapt in presidential campaigning and what that means to ENDA. As a result, we’ve locked horns with folks like HRC, Barney Frank and others trying to get that most key of rights: the right to work … life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness and all that.

Sometimes it’s easy to overlook the day-to-day urgency we as a community face. For some of us, maybe not – we live it. But for even folks like myself who happen to be at least temporarily employed, we sufficiently hold the wolf from the door long enough to not get actively involved in hand-to-hand survival with it.

Unless you think the danger’s passed, let me remind you the hard times are still here for the overwhelming majority of us. Even if one is active, or even a leader on a local, state or national basis, we’re only a paper-width distance from personal and/or economic disaster.

Cyndi Richards is a friend of mine. Admittedly she’s not everyone’s favorite cup of coffee. But she is consistent, doesn’t try to be someone different to each audience (no phony), and is a generous soul (easy to agree to if you’ve been to her parties at Southern Comfort Conference!). Bottom line, like her or not, she’s real.

Whether I agree with her or not, that’s something I can respect.

This past week I got an Email (that unfortunately ended up in my spam folder) from someone on a Yahoo group she runs. It noted she was in the hospital due to a burst appendix. Cyndi herself sent out a note today in her own inimitable style:

Greetings from the brink of grim painful death,

Chicago may be a BIG city, but within our delightfully diverse community, it can still often seem like a small town, made even tinier courtesy of the wonders of the web. As I'm sure you know only too well, whenever something happens in a small town, it's like when the town boarding house exploded --- roomers (rumors?) are FLYING!

And so, forgive me for taking up your busy time with the minor details of my puny little so-called life, but as there are already reports containing various degrees of accuracy which you may (or may not?) have noticed flying around several trans-oriented web-sites concerning a recent event which is probably only of interest to an infinitesimally small circle of friends anyway, I thought you deserved the respect that only first-person clarity can yield. And so, my strange-but-true cautionary tale unfolds. Take it for whatever it may be worth to you and yours.

Yes, it's true that, as chair of Illinois Gender Advocates, I have been "running and gunning" pretty much non-stop since the presumably successful Equality Illinois Lobby Day of April 9th. And so, there I was about ten days ago, cruising along life's bumpy road, with all the normal rattle and hum, and then, all of a sudden, the damn wheels fell off.

Due to lack of full-time employment and zero health insurance (a situation far too crushingly commonplace within the trans-community), I chose to "tough out" what I perceived as a rather harsh case of food poisoning (severe stomach cramps, dizziness, and projectile vomiting followed by violent, gut-wrenching dry heaves) at home in bed alone.

After about 48-60 hours of pure gastro-intestinal HELL, my otherwise super-human tolerance for pain and suffering had reached its limits. Because, as a usually healthy sort of non-insured person, I have no "family doctor" (and no family either), I reached out to a friend who just happens to be a fireman/paramedic.

Once I had described my symptoms, his normally cheerful tone became quite dark and serious. He advised, no, commanded me in no uncertain terms to get to the hospital IMMEDIATELY! Since he was on-duty (in another town), he couldn't come get me himself, so I called another good friend, who (bless her heart), picked up the phone, dropped everything else and came-a-runnin'.

After being wheeled into the ER, doubled over in pain, preliminary blood tests led to a CT-scan, which revealed that my appendix had burst, at least 24 -36 hours prior to my hospital admittance.

I woke up from emergency surgery some 18 hours later.

Upon my initial meeting with an absolutely incredible life-saving surgeon (an Irani [sic] national, more about him some other time), I was firmly chastised for waiting so long to seek help. I explained my dilemma. He sadly shook his head and rhetorically observed that he has seen far too many patients in the same perilous predicament, which he feels is unconscionable in this country. He then quietly informed me that I had been within an hour (at most) of turning completely septic and dying from peritonitis.

Although the story gets far more bizarre, the upshot of the whole thing is that I spent 6 unbelievably expensive days in the hospital, being post-surgically fed and sedated from the same tube, while another larger diameter length of hose drained several ounces of toxic residue from my "southerly" incisions.


My post-operative pain is exceeded only by the very realistic fear that I will wind up losing my home as a result of not being able to pay the upcoming tab for this abrupt health emergency.

As of yesterday, I have been discharged from the hospital and I am now slowly recovering under the wing of the very same angel that originally brought my almost fatally-flawed body into the hospital.

It's no small amount of comfort to know that the continued existence of an otherwise insignificant and mostly misunderstood trans-person matters to somebody. It is my deepest hope that there is someone, anyone, that cares enough to reach out beyond their own personal comfort zone on YOUR behalf, although I would never wish my most recent tribulations on ANYONE.

And so it goes.

If you have any other questions, feel free to ask. I'm not going ANYWHERE for the next couple of weeks - doctor's orders.
Just a little background, Cyndi’s someone who transitioned and lost her professional livelihood (what a shock, eh?). She was not one to sit back and do nothing; she didn’t sit back and become vocally self-piteous. Cyndi became involved in the community and even in politics. Even her note above says little to nothing about her personal situation. She’s been living on the edge for some time. She’s been in fear of losing her home for the entire year – now much more likely thanks to the recent unforeseen health issues.

This goes on every day, not just with Cyndi and will continue going on for many years to come, if HRC and Barney Frank have their way with ENDA and other items on their legislative agenda. Meanwhile, being trans, we’re expendable in Washington DC: Transgenders mean nothing. That’s the bottom line.

And for trans people who don’t toe the Barney Frank/HRC let’s-sacrifice-the-trannies line, this is something we should be expecting for our lives. We’ve got no safety net; we’ll hit pavement the minute we fall and our friends in these elite gay circles will nod and offer the polite golf claps.

One more trans person neutralized, one less obstacle on their superhighway to equality for sexual orientation only.

Meanwhile, we in our community have one of our own that is in need. If there’s anything you can spare to help out an active trans person who, like many of us is sans job much less health insurance, please consider a contribution to the fund. A friend of Cyndi’s, and an attorney in the Chicago area, is coordinating collecting funds to help defray some of the costs. Her Paypal address (and also Email address in case you want to make a donation other than via Paypal) is: joanie_rae_wimmer@yahoo.com

And before you ask – no, I have not been in touch with Cyndi, nor been asked to coordinate something like this. Cyndi’s story hits home for me. There but for the grace of God go all of us ….

“These unhappy times call for the building of plans that build from the bottom up and not from the top down, that put their faith once more in the forgotten man at the bottom of the economic pyramid.” — Pres. Franklin D. Roosevelt

"Until we get rid of the need for hospitals and other providers to cover the costs of people who are not covered ... the overall cost is not going to go down. The only real cost savings comes when you have universality." — Elizabeth Edwards, spouse of presidential candidate John Edwards

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Lola vs. Powerman And The Moneygoround: Lessons In Classism

“If you happen to be rich and you feel like a night's entertainment
you can pay for a gay escapade.
If you happen to be rich, and alone, and you need a companion,
you can ring tingaling for the maid.” — Money, Money, Money by Joel Grey & Liza Minellli in Cabaret

Typically I don’t get much time to read blogs. Maybe I should try to make some time to. One came across the wire that hit the nail on the head last night. Becky Juro wrote “Money Changes (Almost) Everything [http://www.bilerico.com/2008/04/money_changes_almost_everything.php] in a recent post to Bilerico’s blog detailing the true culprit behind the current GLB(tqi et. al.) movement: classism.

Surely it’s not a new subject. When My Husband Betty.com’s Helen Boyd asked me five questions in 2005, the answer I gave to what was the biggest challenge to the trans community was the same: classism. Yet I got this in a gale force storm known as Sylvia Rivera when I showed up at Transy House’s doorstep the night before the 2001 Amanda Milan vigil. Sylvia unceremoniously dressed my ass down and schooled me on it in her own take-no-prisoners streetwise style.

Even a couple years before that, we had Chelsea Goodwin and Rusty Mae Moore forcing these issues to light at the very inception of NTAC, as well as Jessica Xavier trying to shine the harsh light on it earlier still. No, it’s nothing new – just kicked out of eyesight, mostly.

Nonetheless, Becky does a great job of noting how it’s not the province of only those born into privilege, but tends to be more an aversion to personal discomfort and apathy (or laziness) that are its lifeblood. Becky does an excellent job of pointing how it not only affects the GLBT environment, most precisely personified by HRC, but also ties it to the same feigned concern but inactivity by so-called concerned America on an issue as begging as Darfur.

Juro connects the loose ends that HRC and their ilk leave:

One of the most common assertions, one I believe has been repeatedly proven conclusively accurate over the last several months, is that HRC's leadership not only simply doesn't get it, but they really show little or no interest in getting it in the future.

…. When you consider that in order to be a part of the organization's leadership, to have decision-making and agenda-setting power at HRC, one must raise or donate fifty thousand dollars a year, the answer is as simple as it is obvious: The problem is money.

Think about how much personal wealth one must have in order to generate this level of donation to HRC. Can someone with that kind of cash in the bank possibly understand what it is to have to live on a budget, to have to make economically-dictated decisions between what one wants, what one needs, and what one can afford? Can someone who can simply write a donation check for more than twice as much as many of us make in a year really understand what is to have to pay the bills working a low-paying job at a local retailer or the impact that losing such a job because of bigotry has on those who depend on such relatively meager incomes to survive?

The answer, of course, is yes. Not everyone with money is born into it, and many wealthy people proactively educate themselves and use their financial clout to help make things better for others not so fortunate. The real question, however, is not if it's possible that someone so wealthy can possibly understand the reality of the lives of the vast majority of Americans who don't enjoy that level of wealth, but rather if it's likely, and the answer to that question is clearly a resounding "No!"

Indeed, this was a sentiment Donna Rose expounded on in her blog: “The Cost of Activism” [http://donnarose.com/MyBlog/?p=24]:

One of the huge barriers for me as a trans-activist who participates on national boards is money. It gets to a point where I can’t afford to be involved any more. I mean really. I just don’t have the cash to do it.

I’m not talking about the typical give or get financial obligation that many boards have of their board members (for HRC is was $50K/yr, for GLAAD it is $20K/yr). That’s a whole other discussion. What I’m talking about here are simpy the expenses involved to attend a single board meeting. …

Donna noted she wasn’t seeking pity, and how she had a job that paid decently – and was quite fortunate. But she also pointed out the wide disparities even between her “fortunate” position and the typical expectation of gay and lesbian board members.

The only reason I could afford to come to Washington to attend events at HRC was because I know people in the area there who were nice enough to allow me to sleep on their couch. It’s not fancy, it’s often inconvenient, but that’s what has to happen to be able to attend. One year a friend who was staying at the Mayflower invited Elizabeth and I to change in their room before the National Dinner. It’s hard having to rely on the kindness of others all the time…

“If you happen to be rich and you find you are left by your lover
though you moan and you groan quite a lot;
you can take it on the chin, call a cab, and begin
to recover on your fourteen carat yacht.” — Money, Money, Money by Joel Grey & Liza Minellli in Cabaret

It’s something that I, and in fact, every leader in NTAC not only could relate to, but predominantly relied upon. It would probably freak my friends out and certainly not give a romantic appeal for folks to know I’ve spent a few nights on my road trips sleeping in my car. How many of HRC or even GLAAD’s board members or staff can say they’ve washed their hair in gas station bathrooms or traveled over 1200 miles each way for the price of gas, two gallons of water and two boxes of Triscuits?

It’s not simply just an HRC issue. Many are the times I’ve gotten the impression that leaders in the gay and lesbian community simply don’t have a clue about our lives – we don’t even show up on their radar. The distance between our communities’ realities is galactic.

Our economic situations are at diametric ends of the spectrum. Unlike their status in society, we have no political power or even elected representation. We have no ability seek redress, as even our voice on our own issues has been co-opted by these very same self-presumptive de facto representatives. They have the power, the agenda firmly in their grasp and will do all in their power to control it through their own fulfillment of their wish-list and then later as a cottage industry for themselves afterwards in the role of gatekeeper and trans community kingmaker.

Becky’s blog generally concurred, and even echoed almost verbatim the sentiments of at least the board chair of NCTE, Meredith Bacon:

HRC is, simply put, an organization run by rich gays for the benefit of rich gays. Period. End of story. It's an organization so arrogant and so completely out of touch with the pulse of what's really going on in the 99% of LGBT America that can't write fifty thousand dollar yearly checks to the organization just to have a voice in its administration, that they can't even get their own people to take the time to fully understand what they claim to be fighting for.

Even worse, HRC's leadership thinks we're all morons.

Funny … I don’t feel like a moron. Regardless of what they think, at least I can look myself in the mirror without flinching. Money can buy a lot of things. But money can’t buy integrity.

"Money makes the world go round,
Of that we both are sure
(On being poor).
Money, money, money, money …..” — Money, Money, Money by Joel Grey & Liza Minellli in Cabaret

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

HRC's Overdrawn At The Bank Of Trust

"You say it's fine -- keep your place in line
Keep biding your time but you talk in a vacuum.
Because you've been bought
I don't know what I want
But I know I don't want to be anything like you." — Interference, Cop Shoot Cop

While I watch the returns coming in from Pennsylvania’s primary, I’m going to keep things short. It appears Hillary’s found a way to keep her campaign alive and a lot of it is dependent upon keeping the gay and lesbian vote in tact and activated.

Regardless of how little I care for her candidacy, sending Chelsea out was a good strategy and well-played: use your strength to cover the one area you might be weakest in to neutralize your opponent’s strength – in this case, Obama’s dominance of the urban centers. A little master-stroke for Harold Ickes. However, I still plan on making his and his candidate’s life hell for their taking for granted our community. Just the Human Rights Campaign (HRC) repudiation factor in Trans America alone will play well with our base and those who still support full equality rather than the watered-down imitation.

While on the subject of HRC, a rumor came a few weeks back from a prominent activist in the community with ties to HRC that another of our community leaders was meeting with Joe Solmonese. I just took it with a grain of salt to see if another shoe dropped.

Well, the other shoe did drop. This time it came from a surprise return of one of my old contacts on the Hill who noted HRC’s reporting to him of a lunch meeting between Joe himself and the “transgender community’s leader” to smooth things out. Initially he thought that was me! He’s been off the hill since about 2002 and I assured him it was no one from NTAC (barely able to contain my laugh). I can also say it was not Donna Rose either, something I confirmed.

For now we’ll just narrow it down and leave it at that point. Until then, it’s “Mystery Trans” ….

But it does beg one question from either party: what the hell are they thinking?!?

No matter how stupid HRC presumes trans folks are how do they calculate that we haven’t figured out their notably consistent behavior patterns yet? Even dumb animals pick up on patterns after so many replays. Speaking for myself, I’m no worse than a dumb animal and I’ll wager that the trans community isn’t either. (For the record, I was onto them in the late 90’s). Yeah, most all have figured out the cheap trick.

We in the transgender community have never been afforded credibility in gay and lesbian America even when we were fully honest. After HRC’s record of trust betrayal, and further the manipulation afterwards for political cover, how do they feel they’ll warrant any trust? As the saying goes “there’s no fool like an old fool.” Well, we’re done with this. Stick a fork in it. They’re inexpiable.

As for this “transgender community leader,” if you think you’re being seen as doing anything beyond self-serving motivations by playing into HRC’s hands and helping fracture our already-fractured community even further, dream on! Waking up to reality will be exceedingly tough.

Truly we’re a cash-poor community. HRC’s ability to flash a little green and put stars in peoples’ eyes and attract the occasional myopically self-ambitious tranny to help them sink us from inside is well established. But if HRC is thinking they’re going to have us following these Manchurian trannies now or in the future, they’re out of their overconfident minds. It’s this combination of temerity and arrogance that’s going to smash them and their historical legacy, along with any Transidict Arnold they get to cling to their back like a baby possum while mama possum crosses the ten-lane midtown interstate during rush hour.

Their history is etched in stone, never to be revised away. Forgiveness is easy – forgetting is not. They already know that. They’ve never forgotten us and what umbrage they took from us – and we’ve never taken money from or opportunized upon their issues nor urged gay-exclusive legislation. Yet they’re still vindictive. All things considered, what do they realistically expect from us?

As in banking, trust is doled out on their history. Debts can be forgiven, but future loans are only given again once they’ve demonstrated enough to make those they’ve burned previously sufficiently overlook those old burn scars. In the bank and trust of queer equality, HRC is the most severely and consistently overdrawn.

If HRC really thinks solutions are as simple as finding or creating their new tranny shill to assist in the obfuscation and deceit, they’ll learn in short order that we’re no longer playing those games. And it will be yet one more brick in the wall between us.

“I don't need no walls around me.
And I don't need no drugs to calm me.
I have seen the writing on the wall.
Don't think I need any thing at all.
All in all it was all just the bricks in the wall.” — Another Brick In The Wall - Part III, Pink Floyd

“You're a total blank and you're as funny as a bank.” — Interference, Cop Shoot Cop

Monday, April 21, 2008

“Dude, Pimp My Daughter!”: Hillary Sews Up The Gay & Lesbian Vote Bloc With Chelsea

"Chelsea Clinton has got the body and ass of life." — Christopher Murray of Gawker.com

“I grabbed her ass!” one young lesbian exclaimed to her friends after snapping a picture with her arm around the former first daughter, Chelsea Clinton, this past weekend in Philadelphia. The shout drew amused laughs from Chelsea, Gov. Ed Rendell and others in the Chelsea retinue.

Yes, as Wonkette.com phrased it, I’m sure MSNBC’s “David Shuster wept because this was proof positive that the Clintons were pimping their daughter out.” For a family that was so guarded about Chelsea’s privacy and distance from the campaign – including the “pimping” comment Hillary took umbrage to – this was a little bit of vindication for Shuster.

Philly – the town that gave us cream cheese and cheese steaks (which aren’t steak, and aren’t really cheese but cheesy sauce) – is home to a large, vibrant and very active GLBT community. Being next in the never-ending primary, and a battleground state as well, there’s no denying Philadelphia’s importance come November elections. So if Clinton is going to catch her second wind anywhere, it’ll be in Pennsylvania – specifically Philly. So it was time for Hillary Clinton’s secret weapon: her daughter.

Chelsea Clinton, it seems, is the toast of the Great Gay Way. At least in Philadelphia (and from reports, in Portland, OR during their Red Party as well). Our local rock radio station was crowing about the Chelsea gay pub crawl and ass-grab. Admittedly, it’s a smart move for Hillary. She’s always been the dream candidate of the gay/lesbian community personified by the Human Rights Campaign (HRC). Why not shore up an easy and solid bloc for themselves in the Pennsylvania’s most populous town, as well as Oregon’s.

For trans folks in those states who are solidly ObamaTrans, this spells trouble. Like HRC, Hillary’s gunning with both barrels, she’s got HRC folks with her and we’re in a full-scale war.

One of the city’s local blogs, Gawker.com, reported:

Chelsea Clinton was in town Friday night, and boy did she have a fabulous time! And why not: She hit all the gay bars in Center City, along with Ed Rendell and Rob Reiner.

"Chelsea, the gays love you," shouted one gay person. "We love your highlights -- you're gorgeous baby!" said another.

Who knew Obama, and by extension the hopeful trans population, would be sunk by highlights? We can’t fight back on that one. The campaign’s getting ugly. Gawker.com continued:

… Chelsea Clinton was also sexually harassed by at least one person, and not just Christopher Murray, above in the photo, who said Chelsea "has got the body and ass of life."

“Gawker” then replays what’s been hitting the news: the infamous lesbian photo-op with a little something extra. I’m not a Clinton supporter, but something about that strikes me as not that plausible – more braggadocio than real, said for a cheap laugh.

But it’s making the rounds of press and other bloggers like Hicktown Press, who wondered:

“Okay, let’s pause there for a moment. Where exactly was the Secret Service when Chelsea was being attacked by a rude, obnoxious freak? How did someone get so close to her as to put their hands on her behind?” As one of the respondents to that blog in noted, the Secret Service would’ve had the grabbadocious one eating concrete shortly after.

Even with that said, if that were to have been a trans person pulling something like the lesbian Chelsea incident in Philly, I’d daresay the hue and cry would been intense. Straight press would’ve painted us as “freaks” groping the former-president’s daughter. The Gay and Lesbian community would’ve used it as a veritable arsenal of brickbats to lob at us for years after, braying about our lack of maturity, credibility, social awareness, ad nauseum. We’d have never lived that down here in dual-standard-land. So, thankfully it wasn’t one of ours drawing the sensational press.

It appears there were consequences though for the lesbian ‘grabber’. Per Gawker.com:

“Sadly, that woman has now been tracked down and fired from her job for grabbing Chelsea Clinton's ass.”

Again, I doubt the actuality of the incident. If she got fired simply for alcohol-buzzed bravado but no incident, then it was unwise speech – but not a terminable offense.

Undaunted, the Chelsea Clinton juggernaut continued in the city of brotherly love, as SeaQwa.com reported:

After being introduced by Rendell, Clinton gave a brief speech to the mostly male crowd at Woody's [a local gay bar in Philly where the word “crowd” is an understatement], which briefly stopped dancing and checking out the dancers standing on tables (and wearing only briefs) to listen to her.

"I'm so excited to be here," she told the crowd.

"The gay community has great feelings toward the [former] president and Hillary and they happen to love Chelsea," [former Philly mayor, now Gov. Ed] Rendell said.

“We’ll see tonight, easily, 1,500 people,” he said. “And they’re all voters.”

Wonkette.com concurred in their report:

“[Chelsea] Clinton was mobbed by admirers, including some dumb broads who could not figure out how to save pictures on their camera phones. Ed Rendell came along and yapped on a man's phone trying to get the man's mom to vote for Hillary before the guy finally interceded and was like, ‘Dude my cell phone minutes, I do not have so many of them.’”

This past couple weeks has been rough for both the Obama campaign, and also for the trans community. HRC came out and all but declared war with Judy Shepard’s speech here in Houston to challenge the truth wherever they encounter it. It’s a prideful thing for them.

For the Obama campaign, we see HRC helping Clinton breathe life anew calling the gay and lesbian vote home.

Bottom line: the Clinton campaign is not afraid to say they want the gay vote in Pennsylvania and the rest of America. As for transgender, well, Clinton’s folks tried … but with disastrously duplicitous results. The only trans votes Clinton get will be from either HRC sycophants or self-loathing trannies.

That said, trans folks are going to have a tougher time trying to split the gay and lesbian bloc into the fully-inclusive equality types for Obama and the expeditious, get-ours-now-and-don’t-look-back crowd for Clinton. When Matthew Shepard’s mom, Judy Shepard issues a call to arms for all to come to the aid of HRC, we better take note of what we’re facing in the coming months. Even NGLTF’s Matt Foreman, on his departure from his executive director position, admitted concerns that a trans-inclusive ENDA isn’t on the horizon.

HRC and Hillary Clinton are coming after us. They want to win again, and we’re in their way.

How do we fight against those “gorgeous highlights”? We didn’t see that coming.

A troubling sign of the times from Pennsylvania's GLB(t) world ....

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Mixed Message: Which Way Does She Go?

“You can fool all the people all the time if the advertising is right and the budget is big enough.” — Ed Rollins, Pres. Reagan Election Campaign Chief

By now, most everyone in GLBT America is at least cursorily aware of what happened last September: HRC’s Joe Solmonese was keynote speaker at Southern Comfort Conference, was welcomed as the hero he’d been advertised as, and spoke about not leaving transgenders behind in pending legislation – specifically on ENDA – to a standing ovation.

Two weeks hence, Rep. Barney Frank with HRC in tow began the process of divesting their ENDA legislation of anything transgender.

Immediately after, NCTE’s executive director, Mara Keisling, was in a precarious position. She was the poster child of objectifying and dismissing folks like NTAC members who were perpetually at odds with HRC, while moving the community to acceptance and amending our view of the gay and lesbian communities heroes: HRC and Barney Frank. Now with the new “political reality”, Mara needed to scramble to keep folks focused on her and the new message: HRC was now “immoral” and “liars”, etc.

To accomplish getting the message out, she spent no small amount of time (and travel budget!) doing Town Halls, revamping her previous mantra of HRC-equals-hero.

When she passed through Houston, I didn’t bother going. It would’ve only served as distraction for Mara and painted me as target. Of all those who attended and mentioned the visit, all had the same general comment: “mixed signals (or message).” One even mentioned that here in Houston, Phyllis Frye appeared to be biting her lip on some of Mara’s comments. (I did mention that Phyllis always has the tight-lipped expression, to which she added that they were more pursed than they were before).

Not being the nosy type, I just put it aside figuring I’d learn later. Well, I finally heard the specifics from at least the Dallas Town Hall dog-and-pony show. A friend, Kelli Busey, noted to me how the meeting was well-received, and how Mara was letting off steam about HRC and what happened with the betrayal of their previous collaborative efforts. All attending appeared to be in agreement, and the Kelli was glad to know that Mara had finally come around.

… At least until the very end of the speech.

She then reported that Mara lamented that one thing we [NCTE or the trans community?] did wrong was not fully integrating the transgender movement into HRC. Yes, Human Rights Campaign – that, HRC! Kelli told me Mara had her until that point, after which her jaw figuratively hit the floor. She now keeps a wary distance from Mara and actually came down to participate in Houston’s HRC protest.

Perhaps that’s what was said in Houston, Austin and elsewhere – time will tell. If this was her comments to those trans gatherings, like Kelli, I’m flabbergasted by that statement. What benefit is there for the transgender community on the whole by subsuming ourselves and our movement in HRC?

Have we not learned enough by their established behavior patterns over the years? Even Mara should’ve figured this one out by now!

Doing that would officially sanction HRC as our de facto conservators – making official what they already presume and advertise for themselves. They would own our voice, our issues, our stories, and the timing and pace of our rights and agenda. Does anyone actually look forward to HRC allow us our own pulpit from which to educate? Does anyone think they would even consider listening to us as peers, much less equals? Does anyone believe they’ll take our pressing issues with the same weight as their own distinct issues? Does anyone even fathom there might be a possibility for power or even funding revenue sharing on a commensurate basis?

Not only no, but hell to the no!

They hold all cards. They have the money, they have the media, and they have the power (or access to them directly), and we have none of that. There is zero reason for them to compromise with us, and even less desire on their behalf. The only thing we have is that we are in the right, and we hold history – and the ability to keep it from being sanitized the way they hope to after they fulfill their own dreams, take up stakes and move their circus on to whatever is next for the gay and lesbian community.

So what benefit could there possibly be for the trans community by giving away our movement to the likes of HRC? What – maybe by allowing them to raise even more money on transgender issues they’ll somehow be inclined to be suddenly generous? Even without us, they still raise more money on transgender issues than transgender organizations! Take a look at history: how generous have they been? Ya getting it yet?

Additionally, why would we sell our community down the river for the sake of a couple thousand bucks or whatever “largesse” they deign to toss us? Might as well wait for crumbs off of Henry VIII’s banquet table.

What else could there possibly be? Trans people in visible – and meaningful – positions? Dream on. They “included” transgenders some seven plus years ago, and we still apparently don’t have the skills or communication level to be able to lobby on our own issues in their wise estimation. And with all of their professional skills on transgender issues (something we clearly lack in HRC mindsets) we still need to “do more education” on our issues! Think about that.

Other than being there for show, transgenders are not professional, not contemporaries, not leaders and by all of their own accounts (directly or sublimely) not intelligent enough to grasp political reality and the nuances of Washington, the media and public opinion. That message comes through loudly and clearly.

So why would we want to be affiliated with them?

And why would someone in a position of our community’s leadership make such a statement? What could any of us in trans America possibly gain by such an absorption by HRC? I’ve got to wonder whose side Mara’s on, and what would possess anyone to think there’s anything but a net negative for trans people in such a combo?

Pardon me, but I’m sticking with what I’ve learned from dealing with them the past twelve years. No more blind leaps of faith into that abyss!

“You can climb a mountain.
You can swim the sea.
You can jump into the fire,
But you'll never be free.” — Jump Into The Fire, Nilsson

Friday, April 18, 2008

Judy Shepard: Back Up HRC On Press “Misinformation” About Leaving Transgender Behind!

This week has been wild … far too many things to write about – not enough time. On top of it, my dad and Sally were in from Oregon the past two days – monopolizing my time since we rarely see each other.

On the subject of parents, Matthew Shepard’s mom, Judy Shepard was in town as the keynote speaker at Houston’s HRC banquet. I missed out on getting a chance to touch base with her again. We met in 2000 at the Martinez vigil in Cortez, Colorado as she was there with a contingent of other PFLAG parents, including Carolyn Wagner and Gabi Clayton. She was very sweet, we chatted quite a bit about what Paula Mitchell was going through, how it touched her own life and brought back some of the memories of 1998 for her. I’d mentioned to her my own sentiments about starting a march to Austin immediately after Matthew was found, and how we’d held a vigil in Houston which I volunteered at as many of the spontaneous events sprung up around the country following Matthew’s death.

I had kind memories of Judy from that visit (and another brief encounter in Columbus, Ohio’s PFLAG convention).

Then I got wind from a media friend in Dallas about her speech in Houston (after noticing our protest line outside).


About three minutes into the speech, Judy comes around to noting that “Joe [Solmonese] and the other lobbyists are just stellar,” and how they are there at the banquet to “celebrate the work they do for ‘us’ on the hill.” She then adds that theirs is work that is “frequently misrepresented in the press.”

Judy notes “the way that people think we should force people to vote the way we want them to…. It doesn’t work that easy. It’s not that smooth.” Heard that line before? Yeah … me too. Someone drank the Kool-Aid.

From there on, it’s downhill.

“I commend all of you for understanding how important it is to support them (HRC) even when the press begins to rail at them about things they don’t understand.” [about 4:30 into the speech]

“We have an important job and an important message to keep morale up and keep the information correct.”

“We have a job to maintain that honesty and that sincerity.”

“You need to pay attention to what’s going on.”

“Marriage is not going to change everything for you (oddly she never brought up employment issues at all).”

“We have a lot of education that needs to be done, particularly around the transgender issue.”

“We need all of you to support what HRC does and to talk in a way that shows your knowledge of a situation. We need the right information out there.”

Talking about her visits to college campuses, Shepard says she can’t relate how many times she’s heard from them: “well HRC just deserted the transgender issue.”

To that, Shepard replies to them: “Well no, not really. They didn’t do that at all! Do you read their policy? Do you read what’s on their website? Or are you just listening to the hype the popular press is giving you misinformation?”

To the banquet attendees, Shepard implored them that “we have to talk to people. We have to tell our stories. We need to be … authentic about who we are.”

She wrapped up with a call to arms for all HRC members: “Y’all need to back up what’s happening, everywhere in every situation that happens.”

In a nutshell, it’s up to all HRC supporters to go forth and challenge every claim about their disparity and disparagement of the transgender community. This will be their messaging, and they will stick to it:

It’s all been a concoction of the press’ imagination, and an attempt to create controversy from something that never happened.

HRC, not the transgender community, has been honest and sincere. We trans activists allegedly don’t know up from down and right from wrong, not even understanding what has happened to us legislatively or even from out well-meaning and knowledgeable friends at HRC. We should all read their policy and their website and not pay attention to exclusion from legislation, or lack of access to legislators whom we’ve clearly failed to educate this past decade and a half.

Meanwhile, marriage is possible in the near term for gays and lesbians, and there’s not much need to even discuss employment – not an issue at all.

Pardon me, while I pick my jaw up off of the floor.

Of all the people to be public, and to issue the call to all in HRC to take up the battle and defeat the transgender bullies and the illusory press – it’s Judy Shepard!?! Folks in NTAC, most consistently mistrustful of HRC, have had precious little contact with press – you won’t see one word from me on HRC in press since 2007. Ironically, most press on HRC and Joe Solmonese has come from Mara Keisling: hands-down the best friend HRC has ever had in helping market themselves with and make serious inroads into the transgender community!

And the press and transgender community have been unfair to HRC? And they need to now fight back?!? For honesty and sincerity???

Truly I feel like I’ve just been mugged, robbed and beaten senseless by Santa and his posse of gangsta elves. It’s like finding out the tooth fairy is actually a pervert who breaks into people’s homes to rape them while they sleep. The Easter Bunny playfully nibbles all he sees and spreads MRSA – the flesh-eating staph bacteria. How did this happen? Did I really miss this one that badly?

Doubtless this will also come as a shock to Carolyn Wagner, Gabi Clayton, Courtney Sharp, Sue Null, Mary Boenke and all of the trans-supporters in PFLAG-land. I’m stultified.

This speaks to the level of HRC’s persistence and myopic focus on their singular goals, regardless of costs, damage or image. They’ll worry about that last part, Rove-style, once they’ve won all and can buy a retroactive sanitizing of their history for posterity. Until then, regardless of what it takes, HRC will ‘vanquish all foes who stand in their way and seize victory’.

In case you haven’t figured it out yet, these college challengers, the trans-friendly gay press, and we bully trannies, we stand in their way – we’re their foes too. Call the riot police ….

“It thus becomes vitally important for the State to use all of its powers to repress dissent, for the truth is the mortal enemy of the lie, and thus by extension, the truth becomes the greatest enemy of the State.” – Josef Goebbels

Monday, April 14, 2008

Postcards From Houston: Videos Of The HRC Banquet Protest

A sexually confusing sign?

Fun and games in the early part of the protest, just Josephine Tittsworth and I.

Getting stopped by the police. Stevie and I were just walking in front of the hotel out in the street as they instructed (apparently because the sidewalk and curb were somehow hotel property?) Sorry for the poor video quality, but it's a cheapo video camera, and I was trying to maneuver both the camera and my protest sign in a swirling wind.

Phyllis explains what happened with the police instructing us not to walk in front of the hotel. Apparently after our visit inside to pass out stickers (as HRC had previously agreed to), they rescinded it suddenly and decided to play hardball with us using HPD and security to step up their "protection".

More discussion about what took place when Phyllis Frye, Jerry Simoneaux and I made our way inside to attempt to pass out stickers as Phyllis had previously worked out. That was an initial compromise as HRC denied our local trans folks who were friendly to them and on their local steering committee a table to do trans education. So much for making deals or compromises with them. Phyllis was surprised by the reversal. For me, quite the opposite -- I'd have been surprised if they made good on their promise.

As things were winding down, Phyllis gave a briefing to the crowd before collecting everyone to grab a bite to eat.

I stayed behind while everyone went to eat as there was another hour of folks driving in to the banquet. During the winding down period I got a few opportunities for one-on-one explanations with the unaware on what we were doing and what HRC was about (such as this video).

Human Rights Campaign Pushes The Panic Button

“I take my boys everywhere I go, because I'm paranoid
I keep lookin over my shoulder and peepin around corners
My mind is playin tricks on me” — Mind Playing Tricks On Me, Geto Boys

Houston’s Human Rights Campaign (HRC) Banquet will be a memorable one. Yes, as Phyllis Frye and others reported widely, HRC. It was surprising to her and some of the readers, but nothing out of the usual to those of us who’ve been doing these since the national banquet in DC. They’re actively in damage-control mode and will save their PR image in Malcolm X style (by whatever means necessary). Well, one caveat … they will save their image as long as they don’t have to come to terms and “do the right thing.”

As Phyllis reported, they did go out of their way to jerk us around. It’s part of their modus operandi over the years (more on this later). Just as they’re doing in every venue where there’s an active protest, or any action to enlighten the banquet-goers to reality (such as in Phoenix with Donna Rose, or in Austin), they’ll do whatever they can and pull whatever strings they can with locals to thwart and ensure they silence our message: that HRC does not consider us all as equals, does not support trans in any meaningful fashion and will do whatever is most expeditious and profit or PR-worthy to further their own ends.

People knowing their level of manipulation isn’t good for fundraising, ya know?

So if it takes intimidating the local gay press to stay away from us, do it. If it means playing themselves as oh-so-innocuous and astonished pseudo-allies to we loose-cannon, discredited and sanity-suspect trannies to the straight press, they’ll play it to the hilt. If it calls for playing up the criminally threatening tranny element to their venue’s security or the local police, and ensuring there’s none of the impending criminality that might occur if left unchecked, then certainly they’ll sound the alarm now before it’s too late!

So just like in DC, we had the cops pre-summoned to control we wayward gender freaks outside of their pristine, star-studded banquet.

That said, this wasn’t DC police but Houston police we were dealing with this go-round. There’s a definite “seriousness” to Houston police, and they don’t have problems doing their own Malcolm X style when it comes to crowd control. Walking up, I noticed there was me and Josephine and Phyllis walking up from the opposite end. We were outnumbered three-to-one by crowd-control riot cops on horseback alone!

My mind flashed back to the 1988 Republican National Convention here at the Astrodome, where the horse-mounted cops rounded all the protesters onto a dead end side-street with no exit and proceeded to horse-stomp and crush the panicking protesters, then meted out “assault on police officer (horse in this case)” charges for those who were unfortunate enough to have gotten in the way of the charge or to have been crunched under hoof.

No surprise for this part of the country where rights are for sissies – you take your beatings like a man (regardless of man, woman or trans). Even HPD’s chief is named Hurtt – apropos. I mentally girded myself for the possibility of a steel bed for the night.

“We got a thousand points of light … on a homeless man.
We got a kinder, gentler machine-gun hand.” — Rockin’ In The Free World, Neil Young

All in all, even though we had the barricades, the horseback crowd control and the SRG (Special Response Group) for the “riots”, it was a non-event. HPD did a decent job, mostly. The only thing I got was one cop who grabbed my elbow and escorted me across the driveway when I asked too many questions. It was better than being singularly dogged as I was in DC. The tactics for us all, though, were similar to what I got in DC: you have to walk in the street / no you can’t walk in the street, you can go in, but only on the second floor / you can’t be in the area we directed you to / you can’t be in here at all.

Personally, I was a bit frustrated in not getting my new camera / video to work with my PC at home (my operating system’s not compatible!) and as soon as I get a way to get the drivers loaded, I’ll have video and photos for you.

Sadly, I missed all of the shots of folks flipping us the bird from the safety of their cars. Tatiana from Austin, Josephine Tittsworth and I did have a perfect shot of a suburban full of the banquet goers all lined up on the right side, flipping us the bird in unison. Hopefully Tatiana got it, but I missed that shot. I was hoping the camera would be sharp enough to read lips of some of the folks driving in (choice words as well), but I didn’t see anything immediately sensational.

I guess you can’t blame them. Think of how hard it is for them … they have to be reminded of us! Kinda like being reminded about poverty or starvation. They’re on their way to a party … who wants to think about those people, hmm?

“The food cooks poorly and everyone goes hungry.
from then on it's dog eat dog, dog eat body, & body eat dog.
I can't go down there. I can't understand it.
I'm a no good coward, and an American too –
a North American that is …
Not a south or a central or a native American.
And I must not think bad thoughts.” — I Must Not Think Bad Thoughts, X

For me, contrary to popular belief, this was only my second one (though HRC and their minions both within and outside the trans community will make you believe otherwise). The last time a protest was planned here in 2002, I actually got with the organizers and we joined in holding a reception / HRC educational initiative – something that will be overlooked in HRC’s pantheon of memory.

Unfortunately, they worked to successfully thwart our efforts in 2002. They had their newly-hired first-ever bonafide trans person, Kylar Broadus in tow, and they went behind me in their banquet counter-steering the attendees away from the reception upstairs. All we hosted were two banquet-goers and the HRC folks – no minds won there, our side’s thoughts effectively quashed.

Similarly, they did a good job of trying to quash this protest. Not only did they manage to keep us a safe distance from their banquet celebration, draw their politicos and local community leaders with the obvious presence of HPD riot police and barricades to let them know they were safe, they even managed a little victory for themselves by giving all attending the distinct impression that we were the enemy threat and were safely and responsibly contained.

Yes Phyllis Frye, former Pride Parade Grand Marshal, partner in a local GLBT law firm and after all the years of local activism, and legal work on same-sex marriage in the oh-so-liberal state of Texas (thank God we’re not in Pennsylvania!) is a provocateur majeure, and a terrorist threat.

Josephine Tittsworth, longtime stalwart and major promoter of Tri-Ess (Society for the Second Self, a crossdressing organizing that promotes a family approach to acceptance), college presenter and national level lobbyist is a criminal suspect that needs constant surveiling lest she slip quickly beyond their radar.

Me? Ah … I’m just Public Enemy #1. No biggie. I may have been a volunteer coordinator and the MVP to get Houston’s first GLBT elected to public office, and even part of the effort to get the first gender identity language enacted in the books here in Houston during the GWBush reign. Don’t let that stuff fool you, though. Why I certainly must be criminally insane, and my photos in FBI’s most-wanted don’t do me justice … not that I deserve any justice better than a death sentence.

Hey, if I’m dead, I certainly can’t tell people what HRC’s been doing all these years. History erased! Gotta be good … right?

Or maybe it was all just much ado about nothing, and HRC’s paranoia is showing ….

Hey! At least HRC scored one big victory! While they were enjoying their chi-chi black-tie soiree, they had us all out standing on the street corners as their stereotypes would dictate … being the criminal element again … menacing … threatening!

“Hope you enjoyed the entertainment tonight, folks ….”

“Never figured out eating 3 meals a day
when people sit in their broken-down homes.
Look at the photos from different eras gone by
Shows the changes, and I hate them all.
Don’t want to live with myself,
Can’t live with what goes on.
All I see is the humiliation …
I wish it was gone.” — 59 Times The Pain, Husker Du

Saturday, April 12, 2008

Pity The Poor Pro-HRC Trannies During Protest Season

“Had a dream it was time
To be taken to the front of the line
Well that is not a place you wanna be
Sleeping with the enemy….” — Had A Dream, Roger Hodgson

“Even in the belly of the beast there are hundreds of thousands of us fighting for a just world. I feel the tide is turning.” — Tom Morello, guitarist for Rage Against The Machine in a 2007 interview

Now that it’s becoming clearer that the bloom is off the rose of the HRC-is-our-friend/ally/hero/champion circle in the transgender community, I wonder what will be the next move for these brides-left-at-the-altar?

My second HRC Banquet protest ever will be this evening (I’ll write more on that point in a later post). And again – like my first one in Washington DC – they’ve decided they need police protection from us. It’s a little unsettling as I know the Houston PD’s reputation – it’ll be a different environment than DC. Like in DC, I’m sure they’ll have someone point me out to HPD to give me the “special” attention to my every move. I plan on being dogged tonight.

This time, national activist emeritus Phyllis Frye is coordinating, so she got a taste of what we (especially the NTAC crowd) have known all along. Phyllis far from clueless about HRC, though. Once upon a time (pre-Mara) she was arguably their most vocal and consistent detractor. For her to ease back into the anti-HRC outsider set isn’t difficult at all. It’s a role she’s known well for over 15 years.

On the flipside of that, the Human Rights Campaign has worked diligently over the years to wedge and divide Houston – long known in the past for it’s unswayable trans community, and general GLBT community antipathy towards HRC. Most especially, since 2003-2004 when the NTAC star was being supplanted by NTCE, the local trans community began listening to the alternative voices: “we need to be collegial,” “we need to work collaboratively,” “they aren’t our enemy – they’re our friends,” “they’re our champion … heroes.”

Simultaneously, I backed off. Yes, I could’ve provided counter-argument (many would argue I should’ve). But I would also run the risk of beating the dead horse. Being repetitive as a broken record never appealed to me, and I’ve learned that forcing people to listen or to believe only meets resistance. So I backed off knowing that in time, considering HRC’s behavior patterns, they would reveal their true selves to all.

This week some of our local-level trans leaders decided to approach two of HRC’s board members and ask for a table to do an educational initiative on the inside.

They were rebuffed.

The excuse given was that HRC felt if they provided a table for a transgender group’s educational initiative, then they’d have to do it for all. Pretty slick, huh? They do know how to spin to cover their tracks pretty well. It’s also like the excuse they gave when it became public that HRC national called the cops on us beforehand. To wit, Phyllis’ report on that:

“I was told by local that national HRC said, "We were misunderstood by the Houston Police."

IMHO, that is a load of grade A, prime crap that HRC is becoming famously consistent is issuing.

Especially so since last fall where, at the TG Southern Comfort Convention in Atlanta, the HRC President told the TG community that HRC promised to keep TG folks in the ENDA bill. ….

I do not believe the HRC spin.”

To be sure, HRC is still covering their butt. Kathy Padilla forwarded this to Phyllis and I from the Queerty.com blog – a response from an HRC staffer.

“Houston is not a unique situation. In fact, the same protests have happened in NY, DC and Philly. And at all three, the police were present to keep the order - and did not shut any protest down. So, why is Houston all of a sudden a hot bed of conspiracy theory about HRC calling in the swat teams?

The fact is that the standard procedure is when we are notified of a protest, then it is our obligation to notify the hotel/venue. The hotel/venue then takes the necessary precautions to make sure their guests are safe and that any protests happening outside of their property is also done so in a safe manner. One of those precautionary steps that the hotel/venue takes is to notify the local police department. This was done in DC, NYC, and Philadelphia previously without any problems, complaints, or conspiracy theories.

So, with all that being said we are looking forward to a great Houston dinner which will be attended by the Mayor of Houston. And was the case at previous dinners, those who want to wear their stickers and stand in protest will be more than welcome to do so.”

[Note: Phyllis was instructed by Houston Police during the interview that: "I was … informed that HRC has also instructed the hotel security to ask us to leave if we attempt to pass out any written information or ask folks to wear our stickers."]

Perhaps since Phyllis’ blog goes out widely, the impression is that HRC is trying to play the trans community as alarmists or conspiracy theorists. Once tagged so, they can then easily dismiss and marginalize us (I’ve watched that two-bit play far too many times to recount.)

HRC is correct: we’ve had police presence at all events, pre-summoned by HRC. Indeed there is no conspiracy theory about it, and I never said “boo” about it to any effect. Their tranny-conspiracy-theorist claims to objectify me and others protesting them sounds a bit alarmist of its own, frankly.

That said, I did note the first minutes of my DC protest with free reign … and then after convention center security had a mini-confab with a few of Washington DC’s finest, I was constantly ‘moved’ from standing wherever I decided, then reminded a few times that I needed to keep moving (something I singularly was watched over), then comments about my crossing from one side to the other, standing on a concrete wall, standing on the ramp, etc. No silencing … but the “special” attention didn’t go unnoticed – nor the unspoken message that sends.

As one of the respondents noted to Phyllis’ Phyllabuster, “Why call the police in the first place?” Besides the obvious “keeping the peace” which I’ll agree is valid, there is that “unspoken message” it sends to the community. They consider trans activists like Phyllis and I, and other trans organizers around the country in places like New York, Philadelphia and Washington who not within the HRC fold as (criminal?) threats.

While it’s laughable to consider peaceful protesters criminal threats, it’s impeding fundraising for HRC. It also speaks to their level of paranoia and desperation to hide their reality from those they seek to self-promote and press for dollars. The more they can conceal the truth, the better fro their bottom line and PR image.

As for the local level trans leaders and others who’ve bought the “HRC-is-friend” message over the years, I’d be highly shocked to see their faces alongside us outsiders – those of us who speak truth to power. We’ll be a smaller crowd than the HRC protests circa mid- and late-90’s thanks to HRC’s efforts to divide and fracture the trans community.

But I do wonder what the other non-protesting trans folk will be doing tonight knowing the hell they’ll catch for attending the banquet and the hell they’ll pay for even thinking of offending their HRC friends? It’s quite a dilemma: what’s a poor pro-HRC tranny to do?

“Don’t you believe them! It’s a TRAP! TRAP! TRAP!” — Phyllis Frye on HRC’s spin, circa 1999.

“They’re not about civil rights! It’s a business. It’s about making money. … They’re in this to build their political careers! And all our sisters end up spilling our blood and dying on the street corners, while they make money off us!” — late trans-activist Sylvia Rivera, discussing HRC and gay/lesbian activist organizations.

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Wal-Mart Bigots: Somebody’s Begging For A Boycott

After reading the news today, I’m about as livid as I can be. Good CORPORATE citizens Wal-Mart demonstrated their corporate sensitivity by engaging in some good-ol-boy humor for their cigar-chompin’ company muckety-mucks during their company meetings. They did so by using that one last American object-of-derision – the transgendered person in drag – as their fodder for yucks and hilarity! Take a gander at these!


For the record, Wal-Mart forced out and employee of theirs and a friend of mine from suburban Atlanta, Sheila (whose last name I’ll withhold as she – like most all of us – needs to keep working and doesn’t need more disemployment by bigoted employers like Wal-Mart).

They also had a very well-publicized case in New Jersey where they disemployed another employee who they discovered had transitioned from male-to-female.

While I’m happy to have heard they extended their employment non-discrimination policies, and have made outreach to the gay and lesbian community, transgenders were distinctly left out! Their attitude is they could not care less about transsexuals, drag queens, gender-queers, and we can all go to hell as far as they care. No one’s coming back for us.

Furthermore, we now find we’re not only unemployable, but subject matter for ridicule in their workplaces as we see sanctioned from their very top management. Witness their own CEO not only walking a stereotyped crossdresser off the stage but patting her – uh; excuse me … HIM (in their myopic worldview of us) – ever-so-‘respectfully’ with a swat on the ass!

Typically I really don’t give much of a crap about Wal-Mart. Their corporate avarice overrides any need to save a few pennies there.

During my tenure as chair of NTAC (National Transgender Advocacy Coalition) they responded to one of my queries after their initial EEO policy expansion for sexual orientation only, saying they “didn’t feel a compelling need to review” and expand their policy to include us. While I worked on other city, company and corporate policy changes, I decided to let these bigots fade from my radar. These gap-toothed bigots prey upon the most desperate employees possible, and my attitude was that our community could (and should) do better.

Well, now they’ve got my attention again. OUTRAGE!

Not only does Wal-Mart NOT give a crap about hiring trans people and wish us ill, but they also help perpetuate the image of us as ridiculous freaks! Hey, why just beat them down – let’s shove their noses in the shit and kick them some more! That’s being a great corporate citizen in Wal-Mart-land!

Being from Texas, I’m not much of a lawsuit person. But frankly, at this point, whatever you want to do to negatively impact Wal-Mart is AOK with me! Even better now that we’re in a desperate economy!

In fact, I feel like getting in touch with Sheila and the girl from NJ and encouraging them to file suit and sue the living crap out of them! I’ve got a very hungry, very angry transgender attorney (who hasn’t been hired as such herself) who’s just looking for that kind of big-name target!

If the statute of limitations has run out, I hope they go on the media and blast these bastards for their perpetuation of transgenders as comedic freaks!

Would they think of doing Al Jolson blackface parodies at their board meetings? How about portraying the Frito Bandito? Maybe they could do a stereotypical Village People-style flaming gay act to push their Pride Month advertising to the G&L community? Why do they (and other segments of society) still feel it’s AOK to do whatever the hell they feel to transgenders as if we’re completely oblivious and have no feelings whatsoever? “Just give us your money and then get the hell outta here, ya tranny freaks!!!”

Let’s hope they get protests and boycotts for their blatant bigotry! In fact, maybe embarrassing displays inside of their stores ... perhaps some flash-mob style ridicule is in order! Even worse! Whatever you want to do that hurts them and their avaricious bottom-line mentality, I’d be completely in favor of it!

Meanwhile, keep in mind that not all their ilk support this bigotry! Shop the dollar stores – they’re cheaper. Better yet, shop Target! Unlike Wal-Mart, they actually care about transgenders and others as human beings.

As for Wal-Mart, until they realize that we’re all sentient human beings and that pissing off a segment of their customer-base isn’t good for business, let ‘em go to hell.

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Translating Solmonese Into Laymen’s Terminology

On the day I was reminiscing about the 40th anniversary of the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr., an article came out from an old acquaintance, Eric Resnick of Cleveland’s Gay People’s Chronicle (http://www.gaypeopleschronicle.com/stories08/april/0404082.htm). In an article entitled “Solmonese: HRC may let TGs be dropped from ENDA again” he detailed an interview with the current ED of HRC, Joe Solmonese.

Eric’s one of the good guys. He helped NTAC get the trans issues out in the fore back in the early days at the beginning of the millennium. Once seeing the byline, I knew he wasn’t going to be doing a puff-piece.

Needless to say, none of it was inconsistent, and I’ve got to hand it to Joe on one thing: he didn’t outright lie. There are some things that are “restrained,” if you will. He went back to allowing the “plausible deniability” – that’s wiggle room in laymen’s terms. Joe also lays some steaming cow-pies as well, but they are his real opinion and he doesn’t care how much he pisses off and alienates trans folks. For even the overly-forgiving-to-a-self-destructive-fault trans folks, there’s enough here to spell it out for you even without having to read between the lines. Thanks to Eric for getting this out to the public.

When queried by Resnick if HRC was going to support ENDA this coming session, Solmonese responded.

"It depends on who the president is and their intentions." … He added that it is unclear if 48 questionable votes on the matter can be counted on to favor transgender inclusion after the November election.

"In 2009, [transgender inclusion] depends on the degree we move those votes and who the president is," Solmonese said.

Note how easily the blame slides over to being Congress and the next president’s fault?

One thing that wasn’t pointed out was HRC’s threat to congress critters immediately before the vote in the House, where it was made clear that any vote against the gay-only bill on principle of full inclusion for gender identity was going to be noted on HRC’s all-important congressional report card (from an alleged GLBT group). Oh by the way, it’s election season too! One wonders whether the number of legislators who supported a fully inclusive bill, but switched to the stripped-down, gay-only version to keep their perfect score would be gun-shy about taking a principled stand in the future.

Has HRC helped dissuade future support for trans inclusion in ENDA? And will the trans community be surprised when even fewer legislators decide to support us next session thanks to HRC’s “efforts to educate” congress? Of course, they hold the cards: they are the staff, they have the money, they commandeer the press and they set the agenda … and we’re pretty much S.O.L.

Later Resnick noted:

In late September, Solmonese told 900 transgender people at the Southern Comfort convention in Atlanta, "We try to walk within line in terms of keeping everything in play and making sure that we move forward, but always being clear that we absolutely do not support, in fact, oppose any legislation that is not absolutely inclusive, and we have sent that message loud and clear to the Hill."

A few days later, the transgender inclusive bill was switched to one that isn't, with HRC's blessing, to avoid a possible Republican parliamentary move to send the transgender part back to committee. Donna Rose, the only transgender HRC board member, resigned over it.

In an open letter, Rose wrote, "The relationship between HRC and the transgender community is one scarred by betrayal, distrust, and anger.…"

To which:

Solmonese said last weekend that the belief that HRC would only support a transgender-inclusive bill was "widely understood."

Well, it was widely understood per HRC’s ED … except that HRC didn’t seem to understand it. The only folks who “understood” it so widely were the folks they successfully duped in Trans World. Somehow, they forgot to lobby congress critters with that same “understanding.” They were reporting on this even in the previous congressional session, and much more urgently in this session. And those of us who were listening to our Hill staffers instead of HRC or their supporters back then weren’t “understanding” it either.

Bottom line: it was bullshit. HRC was lobbying with the “escape clause” for critters who were worried about losing their re-election – “we’re officially pushing this, but we understand if you have to leave “trans” out of it because there’s more education needed, and will support your decision.” This nudge-and-a-wink crapola is the same good-ol’-boyism that these same HRC folk rail about when it’s conservatives manipulating like puppeteers (like the senate ENDA vote in 1996!).

Thankfully for them, we trans people are dumber-than-a-box-of-rocks and can’t figure that one out, right? Yeah, we’re all just Barnum Babies … that’s the ticket.

[Solmonese] also agrees that what happened factionalized the community and opened old wounds.

However, he maintains that the incremental strategy is correct and should be supported.

Is anyone getting this? “The incremental strategy (gay first, trans sometime later) is correct and should be support.” No, it’s not the supposed “NTAC fiction” or hallucinations … this is reported, and directly from Joe Solmonese’s own words. If it turns out to be misinterpreted, contact the Gay People’s Chronicle.

"We have always been committed to the transgender-inclusive ENDA," Solmonese said. "The differences are in how best to get there."

Who is this “we”? HRC? That can’t be it. They haven’t been consistently committed even during Solmonese’s tenure, much less historically.

"One of the ways to unify the community is around working on going forward," Solmonese said. "There were transgender people walking the halls of Congress with us two weeks ago."

Right … lobbying the Senate, who is moving forward with the House-passed gay-only version of the bill. You don’t believe me? Google Sen. Kennedy and ENDA with 2008 and Associated press and see what you come up with. See if you find where he supports expansion of Barney Frank’s House version of ENDA.

"What will unite [the community] most is the success of doing the work to move Congress," Solmonese said.

Nice thought. HRC was told in March 2000 that trans education needed to take place immediately and by the trans community who had the experiential ability. Instead, they went the opposite direction, co-opting trans in their self-appointed conservatorship and doing the “education” on trans issues with folks who were not trans. Kinda like hiring nothing but trans people to educate on gay or lesbian issues, ya know? And why have trans people lobbying on trans issues anyway? It might conflict with what the gay and lesbian leaders’ approach to trans rights might be, and they are the experts … or so we’re told.

Solmonese said the transgender-inclusive bill was pulled because "if there would have been a motion to recommit and a vote, there would have been more of a problem with the public showing and members of the transgender community agree with that."

Really? Plurally speaking, like whom? As I recall, the community was pretty unanimously irate as there was quite a bit of controversy over the Barney Frank “whip count” that many legislators – even those on the committee considering the bill – were never polled on personally. One freshman legislator expressed surprise that it even took place as none of the other congress-critters even mentioned it, which he thought odd considering they “usually talked about” whip count votes or other significant happenings. The whip count poll was never made public, and a sudden poll by HRC materialized about the same time showing a nice round 70% of the gay and lesbian community had no issue going forward on ENDA without transgenders.

Now I’m not saying they couldn’t scare up a tranny quisling somewhere. But phrasing it that “members of the transgender community” somehow gave HRC’s suspicious view of political reality tacit approval to any extent is outright deception. Then again, it’s a clever move as he doesn’t care whether we believe it or not – just so long as he gets some of the folks out there in straight America falling for it.

"I want people to be prepared to vote on it four or five more times," Solmonese said.

"With or without transgender inclusion?" he was asked.

Solmonese said that would be too much speculation. "Can't answer until you know all the facts," he said.

For those of you trans folks still believing in the powers of faith in HRC … did you get any of that? Keep in mind its HRC’s policy to be restrained but as hopeful as possible when speaking on trans rights. Put on the good face, ya know? How hopeful does that above sound? If he’s holding back, think of the real, unadulterated, bare-knuckles version of his thoughts with the above restraint considered.

LGBT bloggers and message boards are speculating that HRC and Frank will introduce, and work to pass, a transgender-inclusive ENDA in 2009 if there are 220 votes for it. Short of that number, it will not be inclusive.

Let’s hope their speculation is right. I won’t be one of those Mr. Brightside bloggers though until my contacts on the Hill start painting the same sunny story. I think we all fell for that blind faith stuff before not very long ago – and not with very good results. Why be an “old fool” by not learning the first time(s)?

Solmonese said that HRC will endorse whichever Democrat, Hillary Clinton or Barack Obama, is nominated to run for the White House.

Boy, I bet Hillary loved hearing that one! She’s paid quite a price with those of us in the trans community (and the GLB and straight folks we’ve educated on the issue). After close relations and loyalty over the years, Hillary’s just another possible candidate just like Obama! Now consider how sizable a following Hillary has in the gay and lesbian community as well (something I found first-hand Obama stumping in the gay community). I’m sure they’re loving HRC’s sentiment too! They’ll endorse Sen. Al D’Amato, but not Hillary Clinton ….

Further, HRC will provide resources, money and people, as well as policy expertise to the Democratic campaign.

"LGBT issues are not the political wedge that they were in 2004," Solmonese said, but he suggested that LGBT issues will still come up and be part of the political conversation.

From the same org that pushed forward on gay and lesbian marriage in 2004, and then afterward denied it had anything to do with Dems losing the election!

Actually the scarier part for me was the first sentence noting they’ll come into the game fashionably late (or fabulously late!) and throw lots of money to make a big splashy scene. Most politicos don’t see beyond the number behind the dollar sign. I don’t know as much about Obama, and he’s not been an Edwards or Richardson-level trans supporter that I’ve seen. $wayable to HRC’s manipulation? Time will tell ... but we’re hoping he’s smarter than that.

He added that the current candidates are "a better field than the field before it."

… a quote that will sit well with Sen. John Kerry when HRC comes calling again next session.

HRC is also working on turning back "a whole range of discriminatory practices that Bush instituted," Solmonese said. The new president will be given a list of HRC priorities that can be done by executive order, without requiring an act of Congress.

Right. For all of HRC’s advertised “transgender advocacy,” how many of those “priorities” do you suppose will have any consideration of gender identity in them?

Friday, April 4, 2008

MLK’s Voice … And Unfinished Business For The Voiceless

“Being a Negro in America means trying to smile when you want to cry. It means trying to hold on to physical life amid psychological death. It means the pain of watching your children grow up with clouds of inferiority in their mental skies. It means having your legs cut off, and then being condemned for being a cripple. To be a Negro in America is to hope against hope.” — Martin Luther King Jr.

Forty years. It’s hard to believe it’s been that long since the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr, longer than his entire life on earth, but it has.

In some ways, we’ve come a long way as a nation. The campaign I’m working on, and who I was recently elected as delegation chair in our precinct to our state convention (the third level) for is Barack Obama – not only a biracial African-American, but the frontrunner at this late moment for the Democratic nomination as President. With all the self-inflicted damage the GOP has done to itself over these recent years, Democrats (as long as they don’t self-destruct) stand to place him as the first President who is a POC (person of color).

And yet in many ways, the job he started wasn’t finished. Race as a limiting factor has become much less than it was forty years ago. There is still skin-color stereotyping and discrimination in many areas that have traditionally been hard cases, especially in police enforcement and judicial areas as well as areas where snap judgments are relied upon. More problematic are pockets where education is limited and perceptions are parochial, and where fear of “difference” creates automatic suspicion. Truth be told, it’s not only a white on black issue, but a black on white, a brown on black and an every color and visual difference versus every other color and visual difference.

In a microcosm, parts of that mindset bleed over into anti-gay, anti-trans, anti-middle eastern, anti-anything-that-doesn’t-look-typical-America discrimination.

But the most important work, and very specifically the crux of what Dr. King’s legacy was about, has been mostly overlooked and truncated into only being about race – and specifically about the African American. To be sure, that’s what inspired his work: the treatment afforded “coloreds” most especially in the south. His ultimate work, though, was to give voice to the voiceless, to empower the powerless, to provide a sense of hope to those without hope and to fight the poverty of the impoverished of all races and colors – even white.

Classism was the ultimate culprit Dr. King railed against, and only began scratching the surface on when he died. The media’s finally noticed this, along with financial disparities plaguing America. However, they’re a little late to the table.

In the past quarter century, classism has gone unchecked, gone rampant and has been mostly unnoticed. We’ve been a very patient populace in America over the years, but patience has played us all as nothing but losers. Nothing is being addressed where it should. The poor are ever poorer and more are joining their ranks every day. The disempowered are finding power beyond their reach and their ability to address. Hope is nothing more than just a small town in Arkansas these days. And our stories are drowned-out like a whisper in a rock concert. And certainly it’s affected much more than just the African American community.

Originally, even ironically, the candidate carrying forth Dr. King’s message in this Presidential campaign was a white southern male, John Edwards. He was who I was supporting in the early presidential race. In fact, it was a message Edwards saw and used as his pulpit back in his 2004 campaign before acceding to eventual nominee John Kerry’s campaign. Since his departure from the 2008 race, there has been a little of the message coming out from the remaining candidates – most specifically from Obama. But mostly, Edwards got a scant yawn and very little interest this year.

“Today, under George W. Bush, there are two Americas, not one: One America that does the work, another that reaps the reward. One America that pays the taxes, another America that gets the tax breaks. One America - middle-class America - whose needs Washington has long forgotten, another America - narrow-interest America - whose every wish is Washington's command. One America that is struggling to get by, another America that can buy anything it wants, even a Congress and a president.” — presidential candidate, Sen. John Edwards in 2004

In an online interview with Helen Boyd of the My Husband Betty blog, the number problem I foresaw in the transgender community was classism. I’d watched it begin its inroads (most specifically with HRC playing the kingmaking influence) within the trans community in 2003-2004. When I noted that on the interview, I can imagine there was no one thinking that was an issue at all, and they probably think it still doesn’t exist.

It’s been a divisive issue not spoken of within the gay and lesbian community for years. Those who should be telling the story, those who’ve been on the front lines of their movement and were are front-and-center suffering through the disparity are never the ones with the voice. It’s always the opportunity-seeking “professionals” with addiction to spotlights and cameras who’ve never experienced hardship that are the face of their modern “movement.”

As this economy worsens, and as the gap between the haves and have-nots increase, why would folks in the trans community think this will bypass us in the trans community? As John Edwards was making presidential waves, the 2003-2005 period was also I time I, and a number of other trans political activists were going through desperate economic straits. I know extensively about poverty first-hand from that period and before. Still live with the remnants of it.

Even though that sounds like a trans issue, that portion of it wasn’t. It was Bush/Cheney’s “economic recovery.” It’s been spreading throughout the middle class and working its way up the food chain in straight America as well. Virtually everyone has seen hardships – no longer tied simply to race, sexuality, gender identity or religion.

So today, April 4, 2008, as America and perhaps the world stands on the precipice of a possible economic free-fall, and forty years after the voice of MLK was silenced, I feel sad and empty. The work he began got sidetracked into opportunism and avarice for those fortunate few at the top. The polite patience of those without have served only to validate and reaffirm continued and indefinite deferment of the dream. And anyone who tries to address the ills in a similar fashion – not for personal gain, but to right the wrongs – faces a life without a voice, and malignant neglect.

I’m used to neglect and voicelessness. Heck, it’s something we kids lived with growing up – “deal with it, and deal with it silently.” But one thing I’ve learned over the years is that repression can only last so long. Like anything, it has limits. Once you reach that threshold – that tipping point – all bets are off, the game changes and everything’s in play. The costs of neglectfulness are much higher than offering opportunity in the first place. For an example, look at the civil rights-era riots.

Regardless of whether you look at it from a race-based perspective, from a religious perspective, or from a GLBT or even a straight perspective, equality never came, and the job MLK started was never finished. Worse, with the Gordon Gekko-style greed-is-good mentality in America, we’re much further behind than in 1968. The light of hope and opportunity are horrible things to lose, but once they’re gone you create desperation in that darkness. That light is rapidly disappearing for most of us.

Today both of the democratic candidates addressed the issues of ending poverty and disparity. We pray it’s more than rhetoric. Until we see the silenced speak and the playing field of opportunity leveled, until we see hope and dreams of sharing power reach its way to the lightless corners of this darkened world, then a prayer is about all we have.

Here’s a prayer to see that Martin Luther King Jr’s dream will one day be fulfilled.

“I think that Jesus would be disappointed in our ignoring the plight of those around us who are suffering and our focus on our own selfish short-term needs. I think he would be appalled, actually.” — presidential candidate John Edwards in 2007.

"What we need in the United States is not division; what we need in the United States is not hatred; what we need in the United States is not violence or lawlessness; but love and wisdom, and compassion toward one another, and a feeling of justice toward those who still suffer within our country, whether they be white or they be black." — Robert F. Kennedy, announcing the death on the night that MLK was murdered.

“America owes a debt of justice, which it has only begun to pay. If it loses the will to finish or slackens in its determination, history will recall its crimes and the country that would be great will lack the most indispensable element of greatness -- justice.” — Martin Luther King Jr.